The 2021 NFL Draft is just over a week away and the Vikings still have some big holes that need to be filled over the course of next weekend. The team made some splashy free agency additions on the defensive side of the ball, but it left other areas of the roster with room for improvement.
Here is a list of positions that the Vikings need to address, along with some names to keep an eye on over the three days of draft coverage.
The Vikings lost Riley Reiff to free agency this offseason and it seems likely they’ll try to find his replacement through the draft. The good news for the purple is the fact that this tackle class is relatively deep.
It seems likely that the first pick is going to be an offensive lineman, whether that comes after a trade back remains to be seen. Names like Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater are worth keeping an eye on, but there’s a good chance they’re both off the board by pick 14.
Some more realistic names for fans to get to know are as follows:
Christian Darrisaw - Virginia Tech
Teven Jenkins - Oklahoma State
Dillon Radunz - North Dakota State
Samuel Cosmi - Texas
Brady Christensen - BYU
Alex Leatherwood - Alabama
Spencer Brown - Northern Iowa
It's very clear that this class is deep and these names could all get taken in the back-half of the first-round or on day two. The Vikings got lucky with their biggest need, as it’s one of the deeper tackle classes in recent memory.
The 2020 season was an ugly one for the defense. Although the unit has already gotten much stronger on paper with the free agency additions, the defensive end position is still a glaring hole.
Stephen Weatherly was brought back for his second stint in Minnesota and D.J. Wonnum is set to see some more action in his second season. However, the Vikings should be able to upgrade the position making the defense even stronger in 2021.
There isn’t a consensus favorite at this position, so there could be some surprising names available for the Vikings at 14 and beyond.
Traditionally speaking the Vikings haven’t used an early round pick on a defensive end since drafting Erasmus James in 2005. Despite finding value at the position in recent years with Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, I still anticipate them to use a pick within the top-90 to address it.
Here are some of my favorites at the position that Vikings fans should get to know.
Kwity Paye - Michigan
Jalen Phillips - Miami
Carlos Basham Jr. - Wake Forest
Ronnie Perkins - Oklahoma
Payton Turner - Houston
Janarius Robinson - Florida State
Dayo Odeyingbo - Vanderbilt
Interior Offensive Line
Ideally speaking, the Vikings don’t take an interior offensive lineman on day one unless they find themselves in a trade-back situation. This unit was atrocious in 2020 but the offense still found ways to be successful.
Garrett Bradbury was the last interior prospect taken by the Vikings in the first-round, and his level of play hasn’t been great. Getting another starting quality guard to place next to him could set him up for a breakout season in 2021.
A few names for Vikings fans to watch on all three nights of the draft at this position consist of:
Alijah Vera-Tucker – USC (can also play tackle)
Landon Dickerson - Alabama
Wyatt Davis - Ohio State
Kendrick Green - Illinois
Trey Smith - Tennessee
After the first three biggest needs on the roster it gets a little bit more difficult to decipher. Personally, I believe that the wide receiver three position is more important than it gets credit for.
Justin Jefferson is coming off a breakout rookie campaign in 2020 and Adam Thielen is still playing at a high level. Thielen will enter the season as a 31-year-old, and there’s really no depth behind him and Jefferson as the roster currently sits.
It’s unlikely that Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith falls to 14, but the Vikings would have to strongly consider taking one if they’re the best player available. It’s not the most critical need but adding another weapon to this offense could take it to the next level and be a replacement for Thielen down the road.
Here are some of my favorite day two and three names to watch that could come in and make an impact as a third wide receiver:
Rondale Moore - Purdue
Elijah Moore - Ole Miss
Dyami Brown - North Carolina
Amari Rodgers - Clemson
Tylan Wallace - Oklahoma State
Frank Darby - Arizona State
There were some rumors earlier in the offseason that Sean Mannion would return to the QB2 role in 2021, but those have since been quiet. The Vikings haven’t used high draft capital on a quarterback since Teddy Bridgewater in 2014, and I fully anticipate them to use a pick in the top-five rounds to address the backup quarterback role.
Regardless of opinions on Kirk Cousins, getting a young quarterback in the building to learn behind him seems like a no brainer. We’ve seen this trend work in years past for the Packers, Seahawks and Chiefs, and it’s time the Vikings attempt to find the successor to Cousins through the draft.
Here are a few mid-round names that could be on the Vikings’ radar next week:
Kellen Mond - Texas A&M
Davis Mills - Stanford
Kyle Trask - Florida
Jamie Newman - Georgia (previously Wake Forest)
Shane Buechele - SMU
Honorable mention: Safety
The Vikings addressed the starting safety spot with Xavier Woods after Anthony Harris signed in Philadelphia. It’s just a one-year deal, so it’s likely the Vikings find a safety in the back half of the draft to be a successor to Woods if he ends up leaving in 2022.
Undrafted safety Myles Dorn is a player that I think the Vikings really like. He was an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina last season and didn’t get to play due to landing on the IR early on.
Safety is a position that the Vikings have been able to get away with utilizing late-round picks on. Anthony Harris was an undrafted player out of Virginia, and I think Dorn will get some looks back there this summer. However, adding at least one more in this draft is a must with Harrison Smith entering the season as a 32-year-old.
Here are a few names that could be in play in the final two days of the draft:
Andre Cisco - Syracuse
Joshua Bledsoe - Missouri
Caden Sterns - Texas
Talanoa Hufanga - USC
James Wiggins - Cincinnati
Ar’Darious Washington - TCU
The Vikings need to have another successful draft in 2021. Their roster is starting to take shape but there are still several positions that need significant upgrades as we sit just over a week out from the start of the 2021 NFL Draft. The good news for the Vikings is that the biggest positions of need have some solid depth in this year’s class.
For more draft content heading up to the draft make sure to tune into KFAN 100.3 and KFAN.com.